Since its inception in the mid-20th century, veganism has slowly, but surely, started taking over the world, from celebrities and world leaders to trendy downtown shops, it seems like there’s no escaping the vegan trend.
But practitioners of the vegan lifestyle say it’s not about the trend: it’s all about the ethical and moral implications of meat consumption ending. This is to say, according to vegans: there is none.
For vegans, the only way we could live harmoniously with everything else in the world is by rejecting all forms of animal products, whether as food, clothing, and furniture, among others. But what exactly has veganism contributed to the world? Is veganism just a fad? Has veganism made a difference to the world? Let’s take a look.
What is Veganism?
To understand how veganism has made a difference, we need to understand what it is:
Veganism is the practice of complete abstinence from animal products and derivatives of all forms. It’s an off-shoot of vegetarianism; that is, the abstinence of eating all forms of meat. Historically, different cultures all around the world practiced a form of vegetarianism, from the Hindu gurus to Greek philosophers, with many ancient peoples believing that consuming animals was an unethical way to live.
Fast forward to 1944, in the Leicester Vegetarian Society in England, and we come to see the origin of the word ‘vegan’, which was coined by an inner circle within the Vegetarian Society. Soon, this small group splintered and became The Vegan Society, which propagated “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”, stating their purpose as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.
The first true Vegans took the concepts of vegetarianism and took it to another level: absolutely no forms of animal products, including derivatives like dairy and honey, are to be consumed, neither can they use animal products outside of their diets (like leather or ivory horns), nor will they support ‘exploitative’ practices like zoos and circuses.
Vegans choose this lifestyle specifically because they believe in the moral and ethical treatment of all animals, regardless of size, shape, and origins. Vegans believe that all sentient life experience pain, which is why it’s imperative that we, as humans and masters of the natural world, must have the moral duty to protect animals from pain, especially pain and death that we bring ourselves.
In veganism, it’s believed that all animals must have the right to freedom, and most importantly, the right to live their lives free of oppression and exploitation from humans. This includes being butchered for the sake of slaking our appetite for meat. Vegans argue that, especially in this day and age, nutrients that we used to derive from animals can now be manufactured artificially in labs, rendering the cruel treatment of animals unnecessary, and thus, unethical.
How Does it Help People and the Environment?
Aside from the moral and ethical ascendancy it brings, veganism offers a host of benefits for both a person and the world in general.
One of the reasons why some people mistakenly believe that veganism is ‘just a trend’ is because many people start getting into veganism to lose weight, and why wouldn’t they: studies show that going vegan is one of the fastest and healthiest way to shed extra pounds (provided, of course, you pair it with exercise). In fact, studies show that vegans lose significantly more weight than people who follow an omnivorous diet.
Scientists are also looking into the strong connection between following a vegan diet and a drastic reduction in the risk of developing serious health issues in the future. In fact, researchers are finding more and more solid evidence than veganism can significantly reduce instances of heart disease and diabetes, with one study finding a correlation between a vegan diet and a reduction in both obesity and symptoms of arthritis. In fact, a 2016 Oxford study even went so far as to say that mass adoption of the vegan diet could very well reduce the number of deaths in the UK by up to 8.1 million per year. Of course, the study notes that this only applies to people who adopt a vegan diet full-time and for a long period of time.
Most non-vegans will complain that vegan limitations in food are impractical, with many mistakenly believing that vegans are malnourished. This is simply not the case: a properly constructed vegan diet will be able to fulfill a person’s recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals (yes, even protein!), and with the right regimen, a person can even build some serious muscle while on a vegan diet. In fact, there are tons of commercially-available vegan snacks designed specifically for powerlifters and athletes, completely dispelling the myth that meat = strength.
As for the environment, veganism has directly contributed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions around the world over the past decade.
Agriculture has been one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in history, even outpacing other sources of green gases like coal-plants and commercial vehicles. In fact, raising and producing livestock (specifically for animal-based products and products derived from animals) requires more than 20 times the land, water, and energy as compared to raising the same amount of grain. This means that a kilo of beef will require 27 kilos of carbon dioxide, while a kilo of lentils will only produce around a kilo of CO2 (which, if farmed near trees, would be negligible).
Has Veganism Made a Difference in the World?
Yes, veganism has made a difference. It’s been a powerful positive force in the world that has not only allowed to heal the planet we’ve started destroying, keeping our bodies healthy, and, of course, ensuring that animals don’t have to go through needless suffering for our greed.